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Play Plus a Sense of Control in Life Decreases Childhood Depression

By Expert HERWriter
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childhood depression decreases with more play and more sense of control Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Thinkstock

This week I decided to write about the rising number of depression and anxiety cases being diagnosed in the last several years. My intention was to write about adults and depression.

However, the article I found was about the rising rate in children.

I think that children being diagnosed with depression and anxiety is a disturbing commentary on the state of our mental health in this country.

The last 50 to 70 years have produced children, adolescents, and young adults (in high school and college) that are diagnosed with depression and anxiety. The reasons have been attributed to change in goals and the decrease in play for children.

According to this study, children and adolescents feel like they have less control over their lives than all previous generations. The shift has been attributed to a move from intrinsic goals to extrinsic goals.

Intrinsic goals are related to personal development creating a meaningful purpose for their life. Extrinsic goals are more focused on materialistic achievements like what others think or material reward. The society as a whole has been moving in this direction and children’s new values are reflecting this.

The ability for children to explore their environment and conduct free play without adult supervision supports their ability to solve their own problems. Through play, children learn problem-solving skills, high level reasoning, and creative thought for many different activities.

This allows them to begin developing a sense of control over their lives. They also develop physical, intellectual, emotional social and ethical capacities. When we take away our children’s ability to play, even if we think it is protecting them, we are taking away their ability to exert control over their lives.

Play is important for children to develop a sense of self and sense of control in the world. Not only do they need to play, they need to do it in an unstructured, safe but unsupervised, manner.

Allowing children to play and develop their reasoning and problem-solving skills will build their confidence and intrinsic goals. This combination allows children to have a sense of control over their futures and their lives, reducing the level of depression and anxiety.

So I’m saying the equation for our children and our schools is More Play = Less Mental Health Problems (depression and anxiety).

What we teach our kids is what will show up in them as adults. If we empower our kids to have intrinsic goals of self-development and growth and play we will be creating a healthier generation of adults.

Live Vibrantly,

Dr. Dae

Dr. Dae's website: www.healthydaes.com/
Dr. Dae's book: Daelicious! Recipes for Vibrant Living can be purchased @ www.healthydaes.com/

Dr. Dae's Bio:

Dr. Daemon Jones is a Naturopathic Physician who maintains a holistic practice, treating patients all over the country using Skype and phone visits. She helps her patients harvest health and feel great, using a combination of safe and effective naturopathic and conventional methods.


Pagoto, Sherry, Ph.D.. "The Dramatic Rise of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: Is It Connected to the Decline in Play and Rise in Schooling? | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2012.

Pagoto, Sherry, Ph.D.. "The Value of Play I: The Definition of Play Provides Clues to Its Purposes | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2012.

Reviewed August 9, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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